Business minister Matthew Hancock and defence minister Philip Dunne have officially opened the Defence Growth Partnership’s (DGP) UK Defence Solutions Centre at the Cody Technology Park in Farnborough, Hampshire. As part of the opening, Dunne also announced a £10 million ‘Defence Growth Partnership Innovation Challenge’. That challenge will enable the development of next generation solutions and technology designed to meet 21st Century global defence needs, with the winners set to be announced in September 2015.
The UK Defence Solutions Centre is an industry ‘first’, bringing together the very best minds from across the defence sector to develop “world-beating products and services” for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as well as international customers.
The official opening marks the launch of a key initiative set out by the Defence Growth Partnership as part of an implementation plan announced by Prime Minister David Cameron at the Farnborough International Airshow last year. The Defence Growth Partnership is a partnership through which industry and Government seek to ensure that the UK continues to develop a thriving defence sector capable of delivering “security, growth and prosperity”.
Recognising the need for greater co-operation across industry, the Defence Growth Partnership identified the UK Defence Solutions Centre as a way forward for better addressing the major challenges facing the sector while also developing innovative defence solutions for customers around the globe, among them the MoD.
The UK Defence Solutions Centre will now engage the entire defence value chain, encompassing large multinational primes, mid-tier companies and the UK’s impressive diversity of SMEs as well as academia and technologists.
Operating as a ‘hub’, the UK Defence Solutions Centre will work to maximise the potential of existing research and development as well as manufacturing support. It will bring together experts from leading companies throughout the sector such that they can work collaboratively in a pre-competitive environment to deliver tailored services and products which will meet the long-term requirements of international customers, in turn enabling the UK to grow its own global market share.
Strengthening global competitiveness is “crucial”
Speaking at the launch, business minister Matthew Hancock MP explained: “The UK is respected as a world leader in delivering innovation, high performance and reliability within defence. We are Europe’s largest exporter of defence equipment and services and second only to the US. Strengthening global competitiveness is crucial to the UK’s economy, with the defence industry alone contributing £8.2 billion gross value add every year and 87% of companies generating revenue through exports. This new centre is an important step forward and shows just how closely Government and industry are working together to secure the long-term future of the sector.”
Philip Dunne MP – the Minister for Defence, Equipment Support and Technology – added: “The opening of the UK Defence Solutions Centre is an important milestone for the Defence Growth Partnership, in turn spearheading a new approach to the way in which we develop defence capabilities in the UK. The UK Defence Solutions Centre will be the friend of innovation, harness the entire value chain and readily act as Britain’s showcase to our international partners and customers.”
Dunne continued: “To underline the Government’s commitment to innovation and the entire value chain, I’m also announcing that the UK Defence Solutions Centre will run a £10 million ‘DGP Innovation Challenge’. This will be funded by the MoD and be 100% compliant with the SBRI. In essence, the challenge throws down the gauntlet to innovators the length and breadth of the country to find next generation solutions and technology designed to meet 21st Century global defence requirements.”
Steve Wadey, co-chair of the Defence Growth Partnership, outlined : “The opening of the UK Defence Solutions Centre represents concrete progress and shows the commitment of Government and the defence industry to the Defence Growth Partnership. The UK Defence Solutions Centre provides Britain with a unique capability for industry to work collaboratively on solving customers’ needs, both now and into the future.”
Steve Brittan, CEO of the UK Defence Solutions Centre, commented: “This marks the start of a very exciting development for the UK’s defence industry. We’re creating a world class team whose constituents bring with them considerable experience, ingenuity and insight. Together, we will make the UK Defence Solutions Centre the place to understand and explore the needs of defence customers both in the UK and abroad.”
UK Defence Solutions Centre: additional detail
The UK Defence Solutions Centre is an integral component of the Defence Growth Partnership jointly resourced by Government and industry, with BIS providing £5.4 million and industry affording people resource to support the establishment and operation of the Centre up until 2017-2018.
It will have a permanent central core of staff, with around 25-30 people operating independently of the partner companies.
As a ‘hub’ for co-ordinating strategic planning, the UK Defence Solutions Centre will facilitate new ways of working and business models to better meet the challenges of a changing economic environment, and also provide technology and skills road maps configured to enable more effective business planning across the industry.
The UK Defence Solutions Centre is open to involvement from organisations across a range of sectors. It aims to ‘unlock’ Britain’s wider industrial infrastructure in order to maximise research and development opportunities, manufacturing support, expertise and capability. Indeed, many SMEs are already involved in specific projects and studies are currently underway.
In order to engage with a broad customer base the Centre will work closely with UKTI’s Defence and Security Organisation. A dedicated Customer Advisory Group is to invite customers from around the world, as well as the UK’s MoD, to explore future needs and requirements.